Happy 2018! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and created some wonderful memories!
Last week on the way to one of my bucket list destinations (Zion National Park), we stopped and camped at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. I was so impressed with this place! Although this is a very popular place for day trippers from Las Vegas, the campgrounds are relatively crowd-free and you can find solitude camping here in the winter.
Valley of Fire State Park is located about an hour north of Las Vegas, and has campgrounds that are open year-round. When we were there the temps at night averaged in the low 30s, and during the day the highs were in the 60s. Great for winter camping! Valley of Fire was supposed to be just a place for us to camp to break up our drive to Zion National Park. We didn’t expect it to grab our attention so tightly and make it hard for us to leave. The campground is located about 30 minutes from the I-15 freeway and there is a Chevron gas station right at the exit for the park. Talk about convenience!
Google maps predicted the drive time to be around 9 hours from the Bay Area so with my hubby and I both driving, it seemed like a good place to stop. It was only 2.5 hours to Zion from there, so we had planned on maximizing our time at Zion the following day. Since I’m kind of a morning person, I volunteered to drive early in the morning and get us out the door at four am. The campgrounds are first-come first-serve, so it made me a little nervous when we had to drive nine hours before we got to the park. I know it sounds crazy to leave so early, but the driving was much easier without all that traffic. Later on in the day, four accidents/slow-downs on I-15 added another hour to our drive time (I’m assuming it would have been worse if we left later), but we were able to get to Valley of Fire SP at around 3:30 pm (we made a “few” stops).
The park ranger gave us the option to camp at Arch Rock or Atlatl Rock campground. Arch Rock was supposed to have sites which had more space in between them and Atlatl had electricity and water hook ups (the hook up sites were full) along with some primitive sites as well. She told us there were plenty of open sites in Arch Rock, so we headed that way to see what was available. As we drove through the campground we were wowed by how many unique and interesting campsites there were and how empty the campground was. We finally chose #19, which had a great rock valley to explore. It seemed open and spacious with towering rocks all around.
We set up the van for the evening, the parking space was a little uneven so we needed levelers on both front wheels. We added reflectix to all the windows and the sleeping area of the penthouse top. I added floor insulation (and rugs) before we left and set up some battery operated string lights and mini tree for some Christmas cheer. Cold weather sleeping bags and thermals kept us warm and toasty all night. I have to say, even though the temps went down below 32ºF with frost on our windshield, we stayed warm. Granted it’s not snow weather, but when we camped in Death Valley two winters ago with similar temps, it got pretty cold inside the van! We relied on the heater then, but didn’t really need it this time.
The campground was super quiet when it got dark and we got some of the best nights sleep we’ve had in a long time. We even slept in because the van was warm and the reflectix kept it dark in the van. Eventually, the sun warmed the van up and invited us to come outside and explore again.
It was 1 pm before we made ourselves leave Valley of Fire to head to Zion. Valley of Fire SP has a great campground and I’m sure we’ll be back this way. The location was great, the park ranger was friendly, the campsites were amazing, the geological formations were unique, and we didn’t even get to go on the park’s main road, Mouse’s Tank Road, and experience any of their hikes. Next time for sure! Hope you get to experience this park, December was a great time to go.